Friday, December 31, 2010

We've wandered mony a weary foot, Sin' auld lang syne

The Sandia Mountains are majestic today - this last day of 2010. Clouds have cleared, although it is still cold at about 20 degrees with a windchill that makes it feel much colder. I had lunch with the writer/poet/photographer/activist Margaret Randall today, and her partner Barbara at Flying Star cafe on Central Avenue. She is an amazing woman, and we traded books (my chapbook for her book "My Town.") At the end of the year, we turn - to reflect, to sing, to toast.

Margaret Randall returned to her hometown of Albuquerque when she was 48, after living in New York, Europe, Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua. She has been here ever since (and travels frequently). I will be leaving my native Minnesota at age 48 to make Albuquerque my new home town. New Mexico has always felt like my second home.

The old year ends and the new year dawns. I will be in my hotel room, reading poetry for the first time this trip and reflecting on the year. Robert Burns' 1788 Scot's poem is set to the tune of a now familiar folksong:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
And days of auld lang syne, my dear,
And days of auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine.
We've wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin' auld lang syne.
Sin' auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin' auld lang syne,
We've wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin' auld ang syne.
We twa hae sported i' the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.
Sin' auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin' auld lang syne.
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

And ther's a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 6 - 30 Dec 2010 -Living with the Mountains

Good to see the mountains again! The Sandias are named that way, watermelon, because of the sunlight reflecting on them. The overcast clouds reminded me of Minnesota, and there was a snow shower earlier today but it didn't last long. Seems like I wait an hour or two and the weather changes. Windy also, saw a tumbleweed blowing across a city street. (Photo: Albuquerque highway heading west)

I was out apartment hunting and am getting a feel for the market and what I can get for my money. Driving around a lot to check out areas and taking lots of photos so I remember what everything looks like. One place I really like so far, so when something becomes available in April I'll be prepared! I definitely need a 2 bedroom, for my office and a guest room. Most places here have washer/dryers in the units and are separated buildings grouped outside so you have your own outside entrance. Rental notices are 30 days (state law only requires 30 vs. 60) No garages needed for me, I can do a carport if I want to keep the sun off the car in the summer.

I also met my writing coach and friend, Demetria Martinez for brunch at Mannie's on Central Avenue (near the U of NM and Nob Hill area). It's a great local hangout. She grew up here and is giving me lots of writing contact ideas. I will have no problem becoming involved in the writing community here. The poetry scene is very non-academic, outside of the universities, which I like. It is free-flowing and has room for growth. I am losing track of what day it is, and that tomorrow is New Year's Eve. I probably will spend the night in my hotel room watching something on the limited cable. It's cold here, in the 30's but no snow on the ground makes it feel warmer, and it's still a heck of a lot better than being in piles and piles of Minnesota snow. It is cloudy now, but the sun peeked out even a bit for today. The sun improves my mood immensely. New Mexico is one of the sunniest states in the nation. I am still very tired, all this driving around and reading maps is exhausting. Watching the weather channel is also tiring, as I'm deciding what day to leave and the best route home. I probably wouldn't have left at all if I knew the weather was going to be this crazy but some things I have to do regardless. I am feeling good about this trip and being here, getting things done I need to do. I stopped at Whole Foods - there are no co-ops here (guess people have tried, or there are natural food stores, but hey I'm spoiled with the Wedge) to pick up a snack for my hotel room. Wine is sold at the grocery store, convenient. Prince was playing in the background music - our local boy makes good. Minnesota is always in my blood to remind me where I come from and my history. New Mexico helps me with my future.

New Year's Eve brings a full moon - I will see what the sky is like and maybe I'll be able to see it. This trip and moving is a gift to myself, a resolution for the New Year.

The photo below has the New Mexico flag in the distance, looking out a bedroom window, an empty room, full of new possibilities.........who knows where I will go with my writing and connections when I come here. Safe travels to all - physically, mentally and spiritually - as you prepare for the turn around the corner, the coming of the new year, a time for celebration and reflection.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

snowball in the park

Las Vegas, NM plaza area - a patch of snow...... 28 Dec 2010.

Las Vegas, NM railroad depot

The railroad depot is restored and running! Amtrak stops here. (This photo is for my dad and brother, the railroad buffs) Taken 28 Dec 2010.

car wash!

After 1200 miles of salt and grime, my "Bagheera" car gets a wash! Taken at the Las Vegas, NM railroad depot parking lot. (about 45 degrees outside feels like a heat wave)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Las Vegas, NM photos - day 3 - 27 Dec 2010

Two posts on Las Vegas windows - my kind of town!
The Library - Las Vegas, NM

the other Vegas - Day 3 - 27 Dec 2010

Photos: Oklahoma sky, cattle country, finally see the mountains in the distance. Pinon hills, the southern part of the rockies, Carson National Forest.
Clayton, NM elevation is 5,000 feet.

Same highway 54, the old Santa Fe Trail. Yesterday was another 500 mile day, today will be shorter, only 200 or so. Destination: Las Vegas, New Mexico.

When I get to Las Vegas I feel like I have been coming off a long journey from the prairie. New Mexico smells different, there is pinon in the air, sage and pine. I head into downtown, near the plaza area. Las Vegas, NM has been used for many a film crew and it is a funky little town of about 15,000 people established in 1835. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad came here, and Amtrak still stops here. Las Vegas has more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a mix of Victorian, old west and adobe. I have lunch at a local cafe and savor the New Mexican food that I can't find anywhere else. After my 'fix' I study my maps from the Chamber of Commerce. Las Vegas is like Santa Fe was in the 1970's - very laid back, artsy without being overblown about it, and not overcrowded with adobe building codes.

I call my friend Anya to let her know I'm here. She used to live here and she is now in Minneapolis. She calls me back immediately. Within a few minutes I have the names and phone numbers of her friend and also her old landlord. The house she used to rent is a few blocks away. Since I have only his name, I knock on the door. The landlord's relative is home, and shows me around, it just happens that the 3 bedroom 'cowboy house' is available soon, but I'm really looking for something smaller. There are a couple of 1 bedroom places in the same house. She calls the landlord and he answers and gives me information, he will try to set up a showing for me tomorrow so I can get the feel of the place. He calls me back later that night, he has 14 properties in town, what a selection, what a nice guy, we talk about red and green chili and may meet for a bite to eat tomorrow. I call Anya's other friend and she says yes, she will see me tomorrow, cook me dinner, and is excited to meet me. It is either a very friendly small town or everyone is looking for someone new to do things with. I could very easily settle in here but I need some time to get more of a feel for the place. There is only one movie theater that shows one movie at a time (I have Netflix), one theater (the college), a great library with a park and a plaza to itself (that says something), a good used bookstore, lots of cafes and restaurants and it is an hour away from Santa Fe and the crowds, two hours from Albuquerque, lots of natural parks and open space. I find a few massage therapists and herbal medicine shops and the town has a good vibe to it, I feel at home here. The Universe listens and puts things in motion quickly. Now all I have to do is decide, and act.

I'll stay here two nights and then head south to Albuquerque. I have friends and places I need to see there, too.

I check my work computer connections and all is well. I have wireless and my cell phone so I can link into work tomorrow for a half day. Amazing that I can work anywhere I want to! This is my dream, to be able to live in some funky small town and still have my job. I love Minneapolis, but sometimes I need to get away from it all, I can think clearer here, not so much pressure. Somehow I will find a way to put the edges of the puzzle together into a whole.

Breaking edges - Day 2 - 26 Dec 2010

Kansas can be a strange place.

US Highway 50 - the old Santa Fe Trail.

Stone City - named after stone cutters
Chase County - the largest cattle shipping port in the US and more than 60 trains a day came through here.
The highway follows the railroad (I notice this because my dad and brother are train buffs).

Most of these towns were established in the 1880's: Florence, Peabody, Newton, Hutchinson, Pratt, Greensburg. This is Wyatt Earp country. 40 to 50 miles between towns and a lot of empty space in between. I take it town by town and enjoy the view. Neil Young is on my CD player: "That ol' white line is a friend of mine......rolling down the open road...."

Frost is on the trees and the grass making this Kansas prairie highway an Antarctica of the west, as I like to think of it. The colors are enchanting: whites, tan, grey mixed in with grass, trees, overcast sky, the black of road and occasional rusted out farm equipment or old trucks. It is the edge of a new world. I am familiar with the prairie combines, farm equipment, windmills and sprinklers. Telephone poles and cellphone towers. Then I see my first oil well. And another.

I should have a poem out of this, or a novel something like Cormac McCarthy would write, or a Coen Brothers film. I see owls - three of them. One was a few miles back, by the side of the road grabbing prey, it was white and tan and I saw its face. Another one flew over me, towards the car. A white owl symbolizes wisdom and spirituality (a Harry Potter icon?) and if you see one in the daylight it's a deserted place. Yes, this is deserted, but it is full of life. I will work the white owl into one of my personal folk tales.

The sun is setting low in the sky and it is only two p.m. Wind turbines sparkle in the distance. I am in Greensburg, and a single wind turbine is at a John Deere tractor parking facility. I pass the hospital and two wind turbines are there, supplying extra power right in town. It is 38 degrees and partly sunny. 248.5 miles today so far.

At a rest area I stop and see birds, hundreds of black crows or ravens swarming over the trees like bees (see photo). They are fluid, and move as one organism. This highway is the old stagecoach line. In the 1880's and '90's Donald Green served areas not reached by the railroad and carried the mail from Wichita to Kingman. He had teams of six to eight horses which were changed every eight to ten miles. As the railroads advanced, his service dwindled but he is remembered by a historical marker at this rest area with the birds near Greensburg.

I make it to Meade, home of the Dalton gang hideout. The land changes again, the edge of the prairie breaking off into the west, breaking the edges of maps. The land is more open, and the few trees now are planted evergreens or low bushes, tilted with the wind. In Hugoton a house has trees along three of its edges, all planted pines neatly in a row and they bend almost to the ground. 43 degrees. 4:41 pm. I am breathing with the prairie, into the western hills, no city lights, just open space. No people except for the few I see when I slow down in a town. Tumbleweeds roll across the highway. I slow down for Rolla, from 65 mph to 40 mph. Trucks with their trailers come towards me often enough in the other lane that I recognize a pattern. They are usually followed by one to three cars behind them, like flies attaching to a horses' flank, waiting to pass. The wind here is so strong that I grip the steering wheel hard when I meet a big truck in the other lane, I can feel the wind as my car hangs on to the hard asphalt of the road. Oil is in asphalt, oil built this road, and more and more we continue to pump of it, to feed our driving habits. 16 miles to Elkhart, 17 miles to the Oklahoma border. I am almost to the Oklahoma panhandle.

I am racing the sun now, it is setting fast and I am heading into it and soon it will be in my eyes. It's so bright and right on the road that I have to pull over a bit and wait for it to sink into the horizon. I arrive at Elkhart - "The Cornerstone of Kansas" the city sign says. I make it a few more miles to Boise City, Oklahoma where I will spend the night. It's enough of a town to have a choice of three hotels and one restaurant that isn't fast food.

I choose the "Crystal" hotel, an old brownstone lit up with a red 'vacancy' sign and a lobby with a Christmas tree and lights. It reminds me of a grandma-type of place and is vintage 70's. There is a fabric store across the street which is a good sign. The lady at the desk has gray hair and tells me about her library collection that is down the hall. She lost most of it she says, doesn't say how and later I see there are only two sparse shelves of diet books and romance novels and old seed catalogs and a macrame book. There is dark paneling on the walls and shag carpet in my room, striped. Reminds me of my parents basement. It is comforting in a way, until I discover that the wireless internet doesn't work upstairs and I have to bring my laptop downstairs to get any type of signal. (I don't have a smartphone). My cell works, there is no phone in the room, just cable tv. I feel like a female Jack Kerouac on the road, which I am, in a way. I wonder what time zone I'm in - still central. I lose track of days and time here. I pack differently when driving. I stashed a few bottles of wine, snacks, extra shoes, books, things for the 'fridge. Things I would never travel with by air. It's nice to know no one is patting me down or scanning me as I move from place to place.

What have the stars told me? I see Venus out my window and the bright stars on the black Oklahoma sky and I'm up and packed by 6:30 am so I can have breakfast at the diner and see the sun rise on the prairie.

Day 2 - 26 Dec 2010

William Allen White House - Emporia, Kansas

Closed for the season, but a nice view nonetheless. In the old residential part of town.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Roadtrip - Day 1 25 Dec 2010

Photo: Iowa

7:31 am – leave Minneapolis. Car mileage 48,225. Daylight just beginning. Head south on I-35, so much different than my summer road trips. This is the same way I drive to my parents house in southern Missouri, but instead of doing 650 miles and a 12 hour drive, I will veer west into Kansas City and see how far I will get. Everything is white, the freeway is clear, the plows have been out. It is good enough to set the cruise control at 68 mph (speed limit 70) and feel comfortable. I reach the Iowa border at 9:18 am. I recognize the same rest areas from my summer trips, and stop at every one to stretch my legs. (In the summer I usually go every other one or so). It seems strange to sometimes be the only one there. I say hello to fellow winter travelers, we seem to have a common bond in our venturing out for winter travel. There are, however, a surprising amount of cars on the freeway, at least near the metro areas.

Iowa can be desolate in the summer on the freeway – now it has a sense of abandonment. White everywhere – white snow, white clouds meeting the horizon (although no snow, good driving weather, no bright sun) – a sense of calmness, grayness, whiteness, quiet. Trees are beautiful blanketed in snow, small farmhouses and barns add bits of color to the landscape. The wind turbines I see by the freeway blend into the whiteness and are not moving, they are silent. Everything is clearer out here.

I listen to Christmas carols on the radio. Jazz 88 and KFAI faded around Fairbault, NPR’s classical station 99.5 faded around the Minnesota border, and I search to find whatever station NPR is on where I’m at. It fades in and out. Driving like this takes patience and hope – and I think of the evergreen trees. We bring them into our homes to symbolize hope, the pagan celebration of endurance waiting for the return of the light. This roadtrip is a gift to myself.

I slow down. I-35 in northern Iowa has some drifting snow. One lane is always open, the passing lane a bit snowy in spots. Maximum speed about 50 to 55 mph now. The snowplows are out, plowing the edges, and there must have been a major snowstorm here a day or two ago because I pass at least a dozen cars in the ditch the next few miles. Probably going too fast, or it was a white-out. In a blizzard it would be hard to see the road. The land is flat and there is nothing to stop the wind. The cars and four-wheel drives are all tagged with yellow tape, some upside down. Iowa tests my patience, and I count off the 150 miles to Des Moines. I gas up near Jewell, Iowa and it is 18 degrees. 197 miles into my trip. Once I reach the outskirts of Des Moines, it is over, the freeway is clear again and I can breathe easier. I go around Des Moines and head on the long stretch before Kansas City. Cross the Missouri state line at 48,557, 1:21 pm, 23 degrees. I call my parents from my cell with my headset.

Photo: The Missouri rest area has fake buffalo.

This is the time when I usually want to stop for lunch, but this stretch doesn’t have much. I take a chance on Cameron, off the exit at a place called Nellie’s. I think it’s going to be a nice local restaurant and it’s not a chain, but not much better. I am surprised by the ‘non-smoking’ section and remember Missouri still has smoking allowed in public places. I feel like an outcast the moment I walk through the door with my furry boots and coat (a lady likes my coat and compliments me on it) and most everyone in here is white and over age 60 with John Deere sweatshirts or fishing caps. There is one black guy, at least. The waitress is prompt and friendly and has a southern twang and loads me up on carbs and sugar. I can’t each much, but it helps curb my hunger for awhile.

Back on the road, I breeze through Kansas City. So much different than my past experiences (I usually avoid it). No road construction and no rush hour! The suspension bridge is done and beautiful. There is a “Minnesota Avenue” exit. It feels better in Kansas. A bit of city driving makes me feel at home again. It’s still over 150 miles to Wichita and it gets dark around 5:30 pm (I gain about 20 minutes of light this far south). Out of the snow zone now, just brown grass, gray trees and overcast getting dark. Still cold, about 30 degrees. I pull into Emporia, Kansas around 6:30 pm to look for a hotel. About 550 miles down so far. A good day.

Emporia seems to be a good choice, I see signs saying ‘home of William Allen White.’ White was a renowned newspaper editor, politican and author (Feb 10, 1868 – Jan 29, 1944) He was also a leader of the Progressive movement. There is also a sign saying “National Teacher Hall of Fame.” The writers and teachers are with me! It is time to check in, update the blog and veg out watching cable TV with my own snacks to rest up for another long day of driving tomorrow and see what this town looks like in daylight.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Mexico road trip

Christmas Eve, 2010

Photo: downtown Minneapolis from the 35th floor of my apartment building, looking north.

Tonight I am packing for my road trip – from Minneapolis to Albuquerque. Tomorrow’s journey on Christmas Day will be south on I-35 hopefully to Wichita, KS (aprx 600 miles and 10 hours). Sunday night will be Albuquerque (another 600 miles). I was going to go through Nebraska and Colorado but because it’s January and with the snow, I’ll play it safe and go more south. Those of you that know me well know that I’ve always been enchanted with ‘the Land of Enchantment.’ The landscape pulls me there, along with the energy. I feel I need to be there to discover something.

The first time I set foot on New Mexican soil was in November 1992. I’ve been there many times since, and in 1996 I wanted to move there, but got married instead. This time, I’m not going to let anyone hold me back. I’ve been thinking about this for several months; my apartment lease in Minneapolis ends March 31st – where I will move come April 1st is uncertain at this point. Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque or somewhere in between are all possibilities. When I follow my intuition and announce a change, I feel resistance. The fact that I’ve acknowledged it and announced it helps me commit to it. The end of the year is a time for evaluating the past and planning for the future, but mostly it’s a bit like jumping off a cliff – there is fear involved – but also a sense of power and purpose. “Leap, and the net will appear” is a saying I remember frequently. I think of what would happen if I DON’T do this and am filled with regret, so I know I have to make this trip and see how New Mexico fits into my life.

Whatever happens in high desert country, I want it to be an extension of my life in Minneapolis. I have strong roots here as a native Minnesotan, and moving to Minneapolis from the St. Paul ‘burbs was a big step for me at the time. I want to continue to challenge myself and have new experiences. I still love Minneapolis and Minnesota and realize how much of a Midwesterner I really am. If I would write a mission statement for what I want to accomplish these next two weeks it will be to keep an open mind, stay flexible, follow my heart and intuition and see what will work for me. It will also challenge my current relationships, which is good too, we all need growth and change, that is the only thing that is constant. I hope I am not running away from anything (sometimes it feels like that) but that I am going to another place for my second home. Something that complements what I have here. I love travel, and want to keep the flow moving for new places, people and experiences.

Now that I am working 'remotely' at my day job, Capella University, I can take my work laptop with me! I intend to take advantage of my flexibility.

I also love being out on the open road, with open space around me. The motion usually gets my creativity going and I will be blogging as I go, taking notes, writing poems and hopefully will have a whole new set of experiences and writings to do something with later. I invite you to join me and check back daily on this link. Me and “Bagheera” (my black 2004 Chevy Malibu car) will keep you posted!